Joined Industry 35 Years Ago When Clients Had Doubts About Women Handling Projects
Every sector has a forerunner in a woman who shatters the glass ceiling to reach the top levels of leadership. Satyavati Berera of PwC India has joined the league of such achievers. She is the first woman to become the COO of a Big Four accounting firm in India, a sector known to be largely male-dominated at the top rungs.
Berera, currently the regional managing partner for north at PwC India, will take charge as COO on January 1, 2016, becoming second only to chairman Deepak Kapoor in hierarchy . Berera will replace Neil Wilson, who is moving to London as global operations partner with PwC.
While several women have become partners at accounting firms, with some even leading important portfolios such as consulting, taxation, audit, HR, legal and marketing, Berera is the first to reach the level of a COO. Representation of women in the sector at the entry level is almost equal to that of men, but the numbers dwindle with rising levels of hierarchy . Overall statistics on gender diversity may just start changing now.
Berera, in an emailed response to TOI, said, “When I joined the profession in the ’80s, there were a few women at the entry level but rarely any woman at the managerial level. I can even recall that there were clients who insisted their projects should not be assigned to women, probably because they felt it (the job) was not conducive for women. I am happy to see we have come a long way from there.“
Working at firms like PwC EY, Deloitte and KPMG -the Big Four -can be challenging for women as it entails long hours and extensive travel ling, at times even to remote areas. “Most of our work schedules are governed by the demands of clients and that can at times be a challenge, especially for women. My family initially used to be concerned about my working late hours But soon they grew out of that PwC provided a robust support system. This, coupled with support on my home front, enabled me to overcome the challenges,“ said Berera who has been a partner with the firm since 1995.
At PwC India, the gender diversity in leadership levels is around 30%. At the partner level, it’s 11% (global average for PwC is 18%). While Berera believes there is a need to educate male employees and look at ways to break unconscious stereotypes, she feels persona attributes play a pivotal role in shaping one’s career. “I seldom said `no’ to any opportunity coming my way . It is important to be open to change and, when needed, push the envelope,“ she said.
Berera now stands alongs de high-profile women achievers from other sectors, including Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO, ICICI Bank; Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman to head the State Bank of ndia; Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini India; Sangeeta Pendurkar, MD, Kellogg India; Shikha Sharma, MD & CEO, Axis Bank; Kirthiga Reddy , MD, Facebook India; and Nee am Dhawan, MD, HewlettPackard India.
Berera, who has done extensive work across diversified sectors in areas of governance, risk and compliance services, believes women should not be apologetic about wanting to be successful or ambitious. “One of the biggest mistakes women commit s that they give up too soon and too easily. Having the zeal o succeed and reach top is extremely important,“ she said.
Source: Economic Times